More Details Emerge on the Insane 2015 Dodge Challenger

The all-new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the Hellcat engine is set to arrive at dealers this fall. Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NASDAQOTH: FIATY  ) released a few more details this week on the upcoming supercharged version of the long-running Dodge Challenger muscle car. 

We still don't know how much it will cost, or how much power the new supercharged "Hellcat" V8 engine will deliver, beyond "over 600" -- enough to ensure that the new Challenger will be a very, very fast car. 

But we do know that the new Hellcat-powered Challenger will come loaded with high-tech features -- and we know that the importance of the car goes well beyond a hot new model for a few hardcore enthusiasts.

A high-tech makeover for a classic Dodge model
The Challenger's platform is far from new -- the basic underpinnings go all the way back to the original Chrysler 300's introduction in 2004 -- but it has received a host of updates for 2015, including a cast aluminum axle housing (to save weight) and several new high-tech safety systems.

There's also an 8-speed automatic transmission that is being offered with V8 engines for the first time in 2015. It replaces a durable-but-dated 5 speed automatic, and should enhance both acceleration and fuel economy.

All 2015 Challengers get a new dash and interior. Shown is the high-tech cockpit of the Hellcat-powered Challenger SRT. Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

And all 2015 Challengers get a new interior, similar to the Charger sedan's -- with a new dash, and a new computerized "infotainment" system that gives drivers the ability to configure a number of engine, suspension, and transmission settings. 

Some of those things are optional on lesser Challengers, but we learned this week that nearly all of the high-tech goodies will be standard on the Hellcat-powered Challenger SRT -- including HID headlights, advanced adaptive cruise control, and a collision warning radar system. 

The Hellcat: A new supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi V8. Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

There's no question, in other words, that the Hellcat-powered Challenger SRT is Dodge's top-of-the-line muscle car. Clearly Fiat Chrysler is thinking of this new Challenger as a "halo car" for the Dodge brand -- and that makes it important.

An important component of a high-risk brand strategy
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is taking something of a risk with his plan for the Dodge and Chrysler brands. 

FCA's five-year plan, released earlier this month, calls for Dodge to become a specialty high-performance brand, while Chrysler -- long a premium brand -- will be reworked to compete directly with mass-market rivals like Ford (NYSE: F  ) and Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) .

The risk is this: Will consumers get it? 

For instance, will car-shoppers considering a Subaru Legacy or Ford Fusion understand that the brand-new Chrysler 200 is a direct competitor to both, priced accordingly -- and worth their consideration? (And will they understand that Dodge no longer offers a car in that category?)

While the Dodge brand is being refocused around its muscle cars, the Chrysler brand's new centerpiece is the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan. Source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Reworking both brands will take time, of course -- both have several new products set to arrive over the next few years. But FCA will need to start setting strong (new) identities for each brand, as soon as possible.

For Chrysler, the new 200 is already starting that process, thanks to some strong early reviews.

But for Dodge, that's where the Hellcat comes in. 

The Hellcat is about recasting the Dodge brand
While it's true that the Dodge brand already has a "flagship" -- the outrageous Viper sports car -- it's one that is sold in tiny quantities at a six-figure starting price. The Hellcat-powered Challenger is likely to be a lot more visible than the Viper, and it's already making an impression.

I don't think the timing of this new model is a coincidence. I don't think it's a coincidence that Dodge brand chief Tim Kuniskis happened to have a very red Hellcat-powered preproduction 2015 Challenger at a media event last week -- or that the car happened to be started up and revved while cameras were rolling, resulting in an instant YouTube hit:

 

This isn't just about a high-performance model to give a few well-heeled car enthusiasts some bragging rights -- or even about giving FCA the usual benefits of a limited-run high-performance model. It's about starting the process of recasting Dodge as a brand associated with exciting high-performance cars.

And it seems to be working -- even before a single Hellcat engine has been shipped.

What do you think? Is this new car making the right kind of noise for Dodge? Scroll down to leave a comment with your thoughts. 

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Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (17)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 1:52 PM, hellfire wrote:

    The Shelby has met its match. As a 5 percenter. I am finally happy.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 4:20 PM, cypress555 wrote:

    that car is sweet

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 5:13 PM, chuchuvonhilir wrote:

    Finally something worth buying!!

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 5:22 PM, gofast wrote:

    imnot a fan of 4000 lbs challenger but I'm sure that its a great enthuists car

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 5:28 PM, LouisTewl wrote:

    JR - "Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is taking something of a risk."

    OH, THIS STOCK'S NOT SAFE - DON'T BUY IT - BUY FORD!!

    "The risk is: Will consumers get it?"

    That's not the risk here, JR, and it never was. Consumers will 'get it', and SO WILL INVESTORS, despite your PERPETUAL anti-FCA Propatorials.

    You know who WON'T 'get it'? Ford blue-oval worshippers and F shareholders. Too bad for both you and TMF, JR.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 7:15 PM, bigjohnchevy wrote:

    I love the car,but the engine is kinda ugly to me,sure its powerful and sounds awesome,but it is unpleasing to the eye,when someone buys a muscle car people want to see under the hood,just saying it disappointed me to see how it looks under the hood ,and even the over all out of car look at the engine compared to the competition is ugly,

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 8:03 PM, ncpinball wrote:

    Insane Dodge challenger? Shelby mustangs have had 650 hp for over 2 years now, with two different factory upgrades which can boost hp to over 850. When I played the video, the engine sound reminded me of a 70's roadrunner with thrush mufflers, and I said to myself when all the smoke rolled out of the pipes on start up, "Yep its a dodge all right." As far as looks go, it is hell and gone better looking than a 2015 mustang or the bloated camaro

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 9:05 PM, RWM wrote:

    Being a Cadillac ATS Performance Edition 3.6 owner, I'm not in the market. That said, I agree with how Dodge is being handled at this point. Shamefully, the Magnum got killed - still see them around wonderfully cared for. Same point for the outgoing Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. A co-worker just purchased a Challenger 100 year Edition and loves it. I don't understand Ford's lack of a RWD full size sedan. Oh well. Their loss.

    FCA's seperation of the Chrysler and Dodge model lineups makes complete sense. I believe they can and will make this happen.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 9:13 PM, ac1065001 wrote:

    As usual, Chrysler to too late and falls short of their competition. Couple this with their failure to honor their warranties (read their warranties carefully...you'll be shocked what isn't covered that is with Ford, Toyo, etc) and you get another Chrysler FAIL.

    If you want something like this, look to Corvette or Mustang, they honor the warranty and the cars will be right.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2014, at 10:02 PM, spartan67marine wrote:

    I had my chance to buy a Challenger SMS570X or was going to go to their facility to see about buying one directly, but now that I see this, why would you even go to the Stillen factory and spend what you do for them to customize a Challenger, one that the interiors on their custom jobs are ugly and not much different than a stock one? This new one has changes all over and for far less. I will be getting one of these....

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2014, at 9:16 AM, bills81camaro wrote:

    im wondering if all new challengers come with bad valve seals

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2014, at 9:24 AM, catalinabob wrote:

    Looks Awesome ! Now some real power to

    go with the great retro look. Very interested

    in trading in my 2011 Challenger for this one

    and will be waiting for them to arrive.

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2014, at 10:16 AM, jasmith909 wrote:

    I hope they eventually offer it in different colors. Buying a bright red, 600+ bhp muscle car that sounds like a nuclear bomb will definitely get you noticed. I'd rather have one in black or silver and be a little less conspicuous.

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2014, at 10:40 AM, sisco50 wrote:

    Just when I thought I was through with HEMIs I see this Challenger. Not so sure now...

  • Report this Comment On June 02, 2014, at 7:05 PM, lyleg wrote:

    I completely disagree with the idea of positioning Chrysler against Ford and Toyota. Chrysler is supposed to be a premium brand. They should be positioning it against Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercedes and Lexus.

    Dodge is the working man's brand. It should be positioned against Ford, Chevy and Toyota. What are those crazy Italians thinking?

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